Friday, September 19, 2003

Matt Barganier demands to be read
Received this response from Matt Barganier to my previous posting. Seems only fair to run his more serious points:

...Welch is obsessed with the 500,000 number. That’s fine, but he uses it as a mallet against the antiwar camp:

“[A] New York-based advocacy group called the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) concluded in a May 1996 survey that ‘these mortality rates translate into a figure of over half a million excess child deaths as a result of sanctions.’

“In addition to doubling the Iraqi government highest number and attributing all deaths to the embargo, CESR suggested a comparison that proved popular among the growing legions of sanctions critics: ‘In simple terms, more Iraqi children have died as a result of sanctions than the combined toll of two atomic bombs on Japan.’ The word genocide started making its way into the discussion.

“Still, the report might well have ended up in the dustbin of bad mathematics had a CESR fact-finding tour of Iraq not been filmed by Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes.”

The dustbin of bad mathematics? As I pointed out, the mere fact that CESR arrived at the figure the wrong way doesn’t debunk the figure. Also, I said that Welch put “most” of his effort into smearing the antiwar crowd; I granted that he throws a few softballs at sanctions. But why spend so much time calling everyone who blames the deaths on sanctions “loonies”?

As for my “sloppy thought”: Welch did mention more than one source for the 500,000 or higher number, including an Iraqi govt. report.

Also, I didn’t blame Welch for adjusting the excess deaths rate to 1989 levels. I merely mentioned that he did so. OK, so Matt Welch says it could be 420,000 dead kids. Garfield says it could be as many as 530,000. So again: Why spend so much time calling those who use the 500,000 “loonies”?

I also said that Welch was correct when he said that UNICEF doesn’t lay sole blame for the deaths on the sanctions. So what? Welch’s alternative culprits don’t make much sense. I spent a few words on that.

On the increased deaths: Did I misquote Welch? In the 2002 article, he said that deaths went down after oil-for-food. Hooray U.S./UN! In the Daily Star article, he said they went up. Bad Saddam! Give me a break, will ya?

Hey, I think you’re doing a good thing with the Daily Star. I read it at least once a week. But you oughta do me the courtesy of reading my stuff more carefully before you pull your guilt by association shit (Alouni) on me. (ouch. ed)

Matt Barganier

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